1967 Episode Six – Tip On In

YouTube Playlist of all tracks below

if you scroll down and hit ‘play’ you can listen while you read the notes!

By 1966, Ernie Young had been releasing J.D. Miller’s Crowley, Louisiana productions on his Excello label for over a decade, resulting in some truly great records. When Slim Harpo’s Baby Scratch My Back hit the airwaves that January, it took the country by storm, soaring to #1 R&B in both Billboard and Cash Box, and staying there atop all that Motown for a couple of weeks, while even crossing over into the Top 20 on the Hot 100. Young’s usual method of distributing his singles through Ernie’s Record Mart couldn’t keep up with demand, and he was forced to ship orders directly from the pressing plant, a situation he was none too happy with. I’m not sure if that had something to do with it (or if he just decided to strike while the iron’s hot) but, by July, the 74 year old Young had sold everything lock, stock and barrel, to something called The Crescent Amusement Company.

Miller had been under the impression that his productions had been ‘leased’ to Nashboro/Excello, and that he had retained ownership of his master tapes. Crescent’s legal team felt otherwise, and sent new label president Jack Funk and newly named VP Shannon Williams (shown here re-signing The Thunderbolt Of The Middle West) down to Crowley to try and smooth things over and continue the arrangement he had with Young. J.D. would have none of it, and in the ensuing battle of wills, the last two Miller-produced Slim Harpo singles (including the future Jagger & Richards’ favorite, Shake Your Hips), were virtually ignored by the folks in Nashville and, consequently, by the record-buying public as well.

With his eye on the future, Harpo took advantage of a loophole in his contract with Miller to sign directly with the new regime at Excello. This was seen by J.D. as the final betrayal, and embroiled him in an extended legal battle with the label, one which he would eventually lose.

As Shannon Williams told John Broven in South To Louisiana: The Music Of The Cajun Bayous“Well, of course, after we signed him the question was ‘What are we going to do with him now?’… Nashville just is not a Blues location, and the players are not here; let’s take him somewhere that we think maybe he can turn out a hit… We got in touch with this guy Ray Harris; he set the whole thing up, said he could get the pickers and Willie Mitchell and these guys that played there. It was like a house band, I guess, and they loved to do it.”  Martin Hawkins, author of Slim Harpo: Blues King Bee of Baton Rouge, sent me this great ad for an ‘All Star Rhythm & Blues Show’ in El Dorado, Arkansas (just over the Louisiana state line) in December of 1966. “The interesting thing is that he was part of a package led by Willie Mitchell,”  Hawkins said, “and may have been backed by Mitchell’s guys rather than carrying his own group… Harpo had Memphis in mind, even if he didn’t hatch a plan with anyone else.”  In other words, Slim might have let Williams and Ray Harris think it was all their idea.

“So we’d all go down to Memphis to do this and it turned out very well…” Williams went on to tell Broven, He [Slim] loved it. He felt this was such a good switch; he was very up on this whole thing… I think the Hi session men got down with him. Willie Mitchell didn’t have much to do with the session; it was mostly directed by this fellow Harris… it didn’t seem like Harris was too much on for Harpo’s harmonica, but that of course is a trademark. We insisted on it… I recall the difficulty in mic’ing as to where Harpo could both do his guitar and his harp and sing. Played guitar on all the records, it was sort of ordinary.”

Hmmm… So, it was a known fact that Slim had recorded at Hi sometime in the Spring of 1967. In 2012, Broven and I asked Howard Grimes if he had ever worked on a session with Harpo – “Nope, that’s one I would remember,” he said, I backed him up a few times when he came through Memphis, but I never cut with him.” In October of 2016, when I first got my hands on Reggie’s 1967 session log book, one of the first things I did was look for any mention of Slim’s visit, to no avail…

In May of 2020, when the late great Sherry Emmons Brugman sent me Bobby’s 1967 log book, BINGO!, there it was. The fabled session had been held on April 18th but, if that was the case, why hadn’t Reggie made note of it in his book? Well, the last date entered from his New York sojourn for Atlantic was the 15th, after which begins the first of those inexplicable ‘black holes’ in Reggie’s journal, with no entries at all for the ensuing two weeks. Although that may indicate that he hadn’t worked at all for the rest of the month of April, it seems highly unlikely.

The first record released from the session was the timeless Tip On In, which would climb to #37 R&B during that long hot Summer. Driven by what Colin Escott describes as “One of the most elegant grooves in all of R&B,” the bass, the drums and that shimmering rhythm guitar are just locked in behind Harpo’s ‘trademark’ harp and sly vocals. I’d say that’s Satch Arnold on drums and either Mike Leech or Tommy Cogbill on the bass – the question remains, though, is that Slim on guitar? HawkinsIt is likely that Slim Plays the dry scratch that keeps time while Teenie Hodges plays lead, and in that case Slim must have overdubbed his harp solo”  Escott“I don’t think Harpo could have played the through-riff AND sung. He could have overdubbed his vocal, but the guitar still sounds too professional. Sounds like a studio guy – no flubbed notes or changes.”  Hmmm…

I think I’d have to agree that the tremelo ‘scratch’ rhythm is being played by a ‘studio guy’ – it could be Reggie, or it could be Teenie Hodges (or even Cogbill), but there is no doubt in my mind that the lead guitarist here is Clarence Nelson! ‘That fellow Harris’ would have brought him in to ‘Blues things up a bit’ as he had done with Amos Patton a few months before and, as we mentioned in episode four, we know Nelson was in the house for the Ace Cannon session held the following day. Very cool! Bob Holmes, who Excello had recently hired as a producer and arranger, is listed as a co-writer on Part 1, which may have been to give him a share of the royalties, as he’s not credited on Part 2. In any event, this is just an awesome record all the way around… who knew there was that much ‘Swamp’ right there on South Lauderdale?

Even though it was the notation in Bobby Emmons’ book that opened this can of worms in the first place, there does not seem to be any keyboards on either side of Tip On In. They do appear, however, on Harpo’s next release from the session, with Bob Holmes (whom Williams described as “the respectable black front to the company”) now earning his ‘mechanicals’ via a producer’s credit. I’m Gonna Keep What I’ve Got, grooves along in the same elegant fashion, and features more of Clarence Nelson’s ‘vise-grip’ guitar work. According to Martin Hawkins, the flip of that single, the straight ahead Blues number I’ve Got To Be With You Tonight, was also cut at the Memphis session, as was Hey Little Lee, which was only released on 45 in France (go figure). The reverb-y lead guitar on both of these sides is played by someone else entirely, and I believe it to be ol’ Slim himself! This would reconcile the Williams’ comment about him ‘playing guitar on all the records’. Also, in Hawkins’ chapter on these recordings, he says that Harpo …had recently taken to playing some electric lead,” then goes on to quote Slim’s wife Lovell, who said “He would never finish an engagement until he had played his guitar.”  There ya go, folks!

Speaking of Louisiana…

New Orleans’ Minit label was formed in 1959 by Joe Banashak and WMRY radio personality Larry McKinley. Once Ernie K-Doe’s Mother In Law went positively viral for Minit in 1961 (topping both the R&B and Pop charts), it ushered in the ‘second wave’ of popularity for Crescent City R&B. No doubt encouraged by that success, a local woman named Connie La Rocca (then working at her brother-in-law’s hoppin’ chicken restaurant on Carrolton Avenue) started up the Frisco label with WYLD deejay Harold Atkins in 1962. According to Earl King, “Harold was the key to Frisco’s success. Harold was a genius. He knew everybody in the business and could get records played. He was a soft-spoken person; a gentleman in every respect.”

After a couple of releases of his own, as ‘Al Adams‘ (and an awesome instrumental by Porgy & The Polka Dots), Hal and Connie signed local legend Danny White who was, without question, THE most popular entertainer in New Orleans. White’s Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye would become a local phenomenon that Fall, blaring from every juke box and car radio in town but, due to a lack of any real distribution, only managed to ‘bubble under’ the Hot 100 nationally. Undaunted, Frisco continued to issue great sides on White, with Earl King’s Loan Me A Handkerchief picked up by ABC-Paramount in early 1964, along with two more ABC 45s released later that year.

1964 was also the year that Hal Atkins got a job at WDIA and relocated to Memphis. With his gregarious personality, and his continuing ability to ‘get records played’, he would soon became a player on the local music scene. At that point, Isaac Hayes and his new songwriting partner David Porter had yet to realize their full potential at Stax, and were looking for an outlet for their considerable talents. Atkins was impressed with what they had to offer, and convinced Connie La Rocca to fly Danny White up to Memphis to record.

According to the liner notes of the 1998 Ace release The Frisco Records Story, compiled by John Broven and Tad Jones, the session on White was at ‘Hi’ that Summer, anchored by Bowlegs Miller, Floyd Newman and what would eventually become known as The Memphis Horns. That (?) there no doubt refers to Miller’s bass player, Cleve ‘Frog’ Shears, whom we met last episode. The interesting thing is the inclusion of Howard Grimes and Teenie Hodges on the list, a full two years before I thought they’d arrived there on South Lauderdale. I asked John Broven about those A.F.of M. contracts, “I’m afraid all the Frisco files were submerged by Katrina,” he said, so I called Howard, but the name Danny White didn’t ring any bells. Hmmm…

Composed, ‘Arranged & Conducted by D. Porter & I. Hayes’, the four tracks cut that day would comprise White’s last two Frisco singles, the best of the lot being Can’t Do Nothing Without You, named by Sir Shambling as a ‘personal favourite’, “…with White snarling and growling his way through the lyric in fine style.” Just excellent stuff, man, I agree – but it just doesn’t sound like The Bulldog on the drum kit to me, you know? I sent the tracks down to Howard (who doesn’t do the ‘computer’ thing) and he’s gonna listen to them and report back…

Stay Tuned!

With Connie La Rocca winding down things at Frisco, Hal Atkins decided to try his hand at forming another label with his newfound compadres Hayes and Porter and (wait for it…) Chips Moman! Isaac had been one of the first artists through the door at American, cutting a single there for Youngstown in 1962, and knew Chips well. Calling the label Genie, they brought in a local kid who had also been having a hard time ‘breaking in’ at Stax, Homer Banks, in early 1965. The soaring Lady Of Stone (a ‘Hamp Production’, as in Hayes-Atkins-Moman-Porter) was selected as a ‘regional breakout’ in Billboard that Summer, along with a Youngstown single cut there on Thomas Street around the same time. Although Homer’s single never quite broke out, the other single would become the one that put American Sound on the map

In Rob Bowman’s indispensable Soulsville, U.S.A., he reports that cutting the Genie single with Moman (of all people) had Jim Stewart ‘more than a little piqued’. “Somehow or another, the word got out that I was responsible,” Banks told Bowman, “I lured [Hayes and Porter] into doing it. That closed the door even tighter. For a long time I was barred from the studio. I wasn’t allowed to come in there.” Be that as it may, the incident may have been the first step towards Stewart further appreciating what he had there in Hayes and Porter.

Perhaps that’s why he consented to allow Atkins to cut Danny White there as one of the last ‘outside sessions’ held on East McElmore in late 1965. Hayes and Porter’s groovin’ A side Keep My Woman Home, is right up there with any of the other Stax/Volt records cut there at the time. The flip (with Steve Cropper now joining Isaac and David as a songwriter), I’m Dedicating My Life To You is even better. Wow! It seems a shame that Stewart didn’t sign White as an artist right then and there, but he may still have been annoyed enough with Atkins to make sure that didn’t happen. Instead the single was released on the one-off Atteru label before being leased to New York based Atlas where it disappeared without a trace.

Shortly after Lew Chudd at Imperial purchased Minit Records from Joe Banashak in 1963, he sold the whole shooting match to Liberty, who then moved all operations to the West Coast and discontinued Minit as a subsidiary label entirely. With the dawn of the ‘Soul Era’ upon them in early 1966, Liberty wanted to get back in the game and re-activated Minit as their R&B outlet under the direction of the energetic Renny Roker. Roker had no qualms about swooping into Memphis and picking up the crumbs that fell off the Stax table. On April 23rd, Billboard announced that the ‘new’ Minit’s first release would be by none other than McLemore Avenue outcast Homer Banks. The article went on to say that the single was being recorded in Memphis by ‘an outside production company’. “It was Bowlegs,” Howard Grimes told me, “Bowlegs knew everybody and had the connections, he was the one rounding up the musicians up to do those sessions” One of those musicians, we now believe, was Reggie Young.

You may recall, as mentioned back on the 1966 Discography Page, that Young kept two log books in 1966, the second one being an attempt to ‘clean up’ and keep better track of his session work. A notation for ‘Peacock’ on April 16th (a week before the Billboard article) had us mystified. I mean, there didn’t appear to be any evidence of Don Robey cutting at Hi before he brought O.V. Wright there that November. A ‘memoranda’ that read ‘Izak’ didn’t help matters either. After being clarified in the second book as referring to ‘Isaac Hayes’, that actually made things worse. We were like, Huh? Now, due to the dogged persistence of Mark Nicholson, I think we might have figured it out.

Arranged by Gene ‘Bowlegs’ Miller, there is absolutely no doubt that the supremely excellent Fighting To Win has Reggie’s guitar all over it. Banks shares the composer’s credit with Hayes and Porter on this one, and with Deanie Parker (another Stax employee who had yet to come into her own), on the plug side, A Lot Of Love (think Spencer Davis might have owned a copy?). How this was not a major hit (I mean beyond the Twisted Wheel ‘Northern Soul’ boys) is beyond me… These are definitely two of the ‘3 tunes’ that Reggie says he cut that day, with the third one issued as a B side that September, Do You Know What, another Hayes and Porter gem.

So, what’s with the reference to Peacock? Something Howard Grimes said may hold a clue; “Bowlegs was working for Don Robey…” At first I was, like, ‘Ummm… no’ until I noticed this entry in Reggie’s 1966 book for September 28th. Hmmm… As we discussed last episode, the former Fernwood Studio on North Main had been purchased by Don Robey and was run by Earl Forest and Gilbert Caple, another dis-affected member of the Stax family. The upper left hand corner notation in Reggie’s book always indicated the name of the studio where a session was held (as in ‘Sun’, ‘Pepper’, ‘American’ etc.) and, with ‘Peacock’ being the name of Robey’s primary label and Houston nightclub empire, that may have been how the studio was known in those days – a hypothesis I have yet to corroborate… Detectives?

With artists like Louis Jordan, The Ink Spots and Buddy Johnson, Decca Records had been a major player in the post-war ‘race’ records market. Once Owen Bradley took over the reins of their Nashville division in the late fifties, it had become primarily a Country label. Now, just as we’ve seen with Mercury, Decca was looking to recapture their slice of the lucrative R&B pie.

Washington D.C. disk-jockey Al Bell had formed the Safice label with former member of The Rainbows, Chester Simmons, and Falcons founder Eddie Floyd in 1964. Although distributed by Atlantic, their releases failed to make much noise outside of Bell’s WUST listening area. In Eddie Floyd’s great book Knock! Knock! Knock! On Wood, he relates, “Al Bell was benefiting from his closer ties to Atlantic. Joe Medlin, the label’s head of national promotion, introduced Al to Milt Gabler, who ran A&R at Decca. Milt was well known, a sophisticated jazz man, and he brought us the singer Grover Mitchell… he sung a ballad that I wrote with Chester and Al, called I Will Always Have Faith in You. Nobody really heard it at the time, but it’s a song with a deep gospel feel to it that would come back for me many times over.” – most notably, when Carla Thomas took it to #11 R&B a few years later. Eddie had first met Carla (by then already an established star at Stax), when she was attending Howard University in 1965. She had been impressed with his songwriting, and agreed to cut a couple of demos for Bell and Floyd that Spring. “It must have been some kind of karma,” she said later. The kind of karma that brought all three of them back to Memphis to cut one of those ‘Isbell-Floyd’ compositions, Stop! Look What You’re Doing at Stax, and send it to #30 R&B that Summer.

On the basis of that success, Jim Stewart would allow Safice to cut another of those last ‘outside’ sessions there on Eddie and Roy Arlington, whose soulful rendition of ‘Isbell-Floyd’ tune, Everybody Makes A Mistake Sometimes just lays me out.

At the time, Stax was in need of a full-time promotion man and, once Jerry Wexler agreed to pay half his salary, they hired Al Bell in October of ’65. According to Rob Bowman, Bell was …taken around the country and shown the tricks of the trade by Atlantic promotion man and longtime friend Joe Medlin.” Medlin had been one of the first artists signed to Atlantic in 1948, before recording for a variety of labels in the 1950s. He began his career as an A&R and promotion man for United Artists in 1962, and secured his position there at Atlantic shortly thereafter. In August of 1966, he received the National Association of Radio Announcers Dave Dixon Award (named after the NARA president who had perished in a tragic accident in 1964) for his distinguished service at Atlantic. Within a month, he had resigned.

Further demonstrating their commitment to resuscitating their R&B division, Decca had hired Medlin away from Atlantic for what must have been a princely sum that September. “I know about 500 R&B deejays by name – and I know the names of about 300 of their wives,” Medlin told Billboard shortly thereafter, “When I want play on a record I visit the deejay or call him up, ask about the family, chew the fat awhile, and relax. More often than not, he’ll ask me what looks like it might happen.” Joe knew that at that point, more often than not, what might happen might happen in Memphis.

One of the first things Medlin did was sign Danny White. Although I’m sure he would have rather cut him with his friends at Stax, by then the doors had been closed to outsiders for good. Medlin booked a session at Hi instead, with Bowlegs (once again) serving as the arranger. There has been some mystery about when this might have been held, as Reggie makes no mention of White in his 1966 book.

According to the Discography Of American Historical Recordings, Decca logged the four song session as being held on October 12th, a date for which Reggie had no entry. At first I thought that perhaps the actual date was the September 28th ‘Bo Legs’ session discussed earlier, but now I believe it was held the week before, on the 20th. I hadn’t associated the ‘from N.Y.’ with Decca, but there it is plainly stated on the label… duh!

With Eddie Floyd’s blockbuster Knock On Wood then climbing the charts on its way to #1 R&B, Decca chose Floyd composition Taking Inventory as White’s first release. Although predicted to reach the R&B singles chart in Billboard that November, it didn’t. If our calculations are correct, the B side of that single, then, would be the first recording of Don Bryant’s Cracked Up Over You which, as we’ve seen, would be cut by both Lee Rogers and Junior Parker shortly thereafter. This may well be the best version of ’em all, with Danny just going for it over those kickin’ drum breaks… Satch Arnold? Sammy Creason? Howard Grimes? Hmmm…

Released in March of 1967, You Can Never Keep A Good Man Down (another Don Bryant tune), would become the next single pulled from that session. It was selected by Billboard as ‘destined for top-of-the-chart honors’, but somehow that failed to materialize. Just a great record, punctuated by Reggie’s unmistakable guitar, you have to wonder why it didn’t make it – especially in light of all of Medlin’s ‘fat chewin’… The flip was the last of the ‘4 Tunes’ Danny cut with Bowlegs that day, another stab at his big Sugar Town smash, Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye. It’s not bad, but I do miss those Irving Banister guitar fills… just sayin’. All four of these sides were ‘Produced by D & A Productions’ – anybody have any idea who that might have been?

A month later, Joe Medlin was back at Hi with a young lady he had discovered singing in a Church Street nightclub in his hometown of Norfolk, Virginia. Maydie Myles had come up singing Gospel, but took the name of Debbie Taylor when she began performing R&B. With Medlin now credited as producer (and no mention of Bowlegs on the label), Don Bryant’s I Get The Blues sure sounds like a Gene Miller arrangement to me. That fat baritone, the two guitars (Cogbill and Reggie?), the background singers, those smokin’ drums… another hidden South Lauderdale gem, folks!

Reggie would log one more session in 1966 for Decca, on November 14th, with ‘Bo-Leggs’ listed as the leader. Although we may never know for sure, at first we thought that may have been when these two unreleased tracks, discovered among the Decca masters, were recorded, but now I don’t think so…

The first of the tracks is a high voltage duet featuring both Debbie and Danny White, I Don’t Mind Overtime With YouWhew! The second, I’m Gonna Use What I’ve Got To Get What I Need, is by Danny White and is, in my opinion, every bit as good as the issued recordings, if not better. Initially, I thought the guitar player on here was definitely Reggie but, after repeated listenings, I became convinced it was someone else… I think it’s Bobby Womack. Wait… what?

Catalogued as ‘Overtime’, according to the Discography of American Hisorical Recordings, the duet was recorded on June 30, 1967, with consecutive matrix numbers assigned to two Danny White tracks, with ‘[Unknown Title(s)]’ no doubt referring to the unreleased song featured above. On June 30th, both Reggie and Bobby had logged a Goldwax session at Sun, followed by a Don Bryant session at Hi. This could mean, of course, that Decca hadn’t assigned those matrix numbers to these earlier recorded tracks until then (as we’ve seen), or that they were cut somewhere else, without Emmons and Young. The Atlantic Records Discography places both Bowlegs and Womack in the house at American the following day for the start of the Wilson Pickett sessions on July 1st. What if they got there the day before?

As we saw last episode, Bowlegs had worked as an arranger at American for Mercury in May. Medlin, I’m sure, was itching to get Decca in the door there as well and may have booked a session, leaving it up to Miller to ’round up’ the musicians. With Reggie unavailable, Bowlegs (who ‘knew everybody’) could have heard that Womack was in town and hired him instead. With Moman’s former partners Hayes and Porter also on board as songwriters (and defacto producers), it seems extremely possible that those June 30th sessions may have been held at 827 Thomas.

The magnificent Check Yourself would go on to chart in early 1968, and whoah, is it good! A slightly modified version of the song had also been cut on Ruby Johnson at Stax, but had remained unreleased – possibly because of Debbie’s smoldering take on it here. Think it was cut at American?

Lending creedence to the theory that the Debbie and Danny session was actually held on the date Decca said it was, is the fact that the Gladys Tyler session they logged as being held on March 24th is confirmed by Bobby Emmons’ book. Gladys, like Debbie, hailed from Virginia and had cut a single for Decca subsidiary Coral in 1963. After another release on the tiny Brooks label out of Richmond, Decca had re-signed her in 1966, pairing her with Ray Scott and The Scottsmen. Scott’s real name apparently was Walter Spriggs, whom All Music describes as a ‘musician/manager/songwriter/hustler’. Spriggs had hooked up with Jesse Stone at Atco in the late fifties, before changing his moniker and label-hopping a bit before Decca picked him and Gladys up shortly before Joe Medlin got there.

Medlin had booked both of them into Hi for that March ’67 session, while heavily tapping the Stax talent pool around the corner. With Bowlegs getting the label credit this time as arranger, the producer is listed as James Cross. James had started out working at The Satellite Record Shop before engineering late night sessions for Chalice, the Gospel subsidiary that Al Bell had created soon after he came on the scene. Jim Stewart shut down Chalice in late 1966, after only eight releases. According to Rob Bowman, Cross would then wed “…one of the great unkown Stax singers, Wendy Rene (nee Mary Frierson). Being close to Packy Axton, Cross was never a favorite of Jim Stewart’s.” I’m sure he was only too happy to help out the competition.

Decca selected two more Hayes & Porter tunes for the plug sides of the 45s cut at the session, but check out these two awesome Mack Rice flips. Just as we’ve seen with Mercury, Rice’s music was now in demand since Mustang Sally tore up the charts for Atlantic earlier in the year. Gladys is really belting it out on the rockin’ Mr. Green, Mrs. Green, with Reggie’s galvanic guitar and that barking baritone combining to make this one a keeper! Yeah, baby! The Ray Scott record, Can’t Get Over Losing You, isn’t far behind. Ray’s pleading delivery over those hypnotic background vocals, Bobby’s piano, Reggie’s bluesy guitar and that driving bass, this is just pure Memphis, y’all! As far as I can tell, these are the only tunes James Cross was ever credited as producing. What a shame.

Decca was back on South Lauderdale in November, for a session ‘directed’ by Willie Mitchell, as Bowlegs had apparently moved on by then. The producers are credited as Joe Medlin and Jack Gibson. Quite a colorful character, ‘Jack The Rapper’ had launched the first black-owned radio sation in the nation in 1949, become the founder and guiding force behind NARA in 1955, and had joined Berry Gordy at Motown in 1963. Landing him for Decca’s renewed R&B resurgence in late 1966 must have been seen as quite the coup. I’m not sure if Jack and Joe were present at the studio when they recorded it, but Tony Ashley’s hard-hitting vocals on We Must Have Love are just pure Soul, with Reggie’s incisive guitar mixed right up front, no doubt at Willie Michell’s ‘direction’. As we saw in episode four, Willie was still including Reggie and Bobby on sessions at Hi as late as November of 1967, and we believe this to have been another indication of that…

Ashley may have been one of the ‘two others’ noted in Emmons’ book on November 6th, with ‘Jackson’ no doubt referring to George – or in this case ‘Bart’. What’s up with that? Well, as you may recall, we had speculated that it was ‘music industry attorney and agent’ Alex Migliara who was behind recording George’s lone 1967 Hi single that Summer, and that perhaps Jackson had failed to mention that he was still under contract to Goldwax at the time. In any event (although I’m sure the name change didn’t fool anybody in Memphis), when Migliara arranged to have this one picked up by Decca, he had decided to play it safe (while helping himself to a piece of both the songwriting and production credits in the process). The rockin’ Dancing Man just cooks along, with Jackson’s wit and way with words hinting at his future work in Muscle Shoals…

1967 Episode Six Playlist

Special thanks go to Howard Grimes, Charlie Chalmers, Rob Bowman, John Ridley, Martin Hawkins, Colin Escott, John Broven, Mark Nicholson, and 45cat.

Cosimo Code 2.0

A User’s Guide

Hello y’all… I’ve been using some of this enforced stay-at-home time to completely restore and update our Cosimo Code project. The target of a malicious hacker, our URL had been hijacked, so that a Google search for any of our pages re-directed you to some shady pharmaceutical firm selling performance enhancing drugs that was based in Cyprus. Not good… I hired some people to help sort out the problem, and it appears that, after a couple of attempts, we finally did.

Nothing if not ambitious, when we launched the site in 2013, we had created a ‘forum’ where people could submit newly discovered records and discuss all matters New Orleans. Soon flooded with all manner of spam, it had gotten so bad that hardly anyone logged into it anymore. This, apparently, was the weak link that allowed these miscreants access to the site, and so it has now been discontinued. I don’t think anybody’s gonna miss it that much.

By way of review, The Cosimo Code is the name we gave to the ‘cryptic hyphenated set of two numbers’ that Cosimo Matassa began assigning to all the records he mastered at his studio on Governor Nicholls Street in New Orleans from October of 1960. Long the subject of speculation, it was Davie Gordon, one of the founding members of the indispensable 45cat, who finally had cracked the code in 2012. The first number, he postulated, represented Matassa’s ‘client‘, or the record company that was footing the bill (at last count, there was over 300 of them!). It’s the second number, though, that made this discovery so important. That number was strictly chronological, which meant we could now accurately date these recordings consecutively across those hundreds of different labels. To a discographer (and admitted ‘record-nerd’) like yours truly, this represented a major breakthrough.

Gordon began working on identifying as many records that Cosimo had imprinted with the code as he could find, and called on well known New Orleans record collectors Peter Gibbon, John Ridley, and John Broven to help him compile a list. Broven, in turn, asked me to figure out a way to open their quest up to the public , and The Cosimo Code was born. Within the first year, (thanks in large part to deep-crated enthusiasts like Peter Hoogers and Anabella), we had more than doubled the amount of known code numbers, and the list has grown steadily ever since.

Rather than bore you here with a long explanation of the site and how it works, please allow me to refer you to the short video below:

“Ok,” you might say, “got it.” So what’s changed? Well, the concept behind the year-by-year listings, was to provide a link for each coded track to a page with more information about that particular record, and a playable link to YouTube audio where available. Since we first published the site eight years ago, Gordon’s 45cat site has grown exponentially, and so I’ve been able to add ‘info’ links to hundreds more records. Also, back then YouTube was routinely taking down videos as part of that whole DMCA thing, and so I knew there were some ‘dead’ audio links on our pages. As I began to update them, however, I found out that times had definitely changed. Over the past month or so, I’ve been able to locate and provide audio links for over 1200 individual tracks on the site… Lord Have Mercy!

94-218 – ACE 618 – (1961)

This whole process has been a voyage of discovery, as one hidden gem after another demonstrated the incredible depth of the music that Cosimo had a hand in creating. Gems like this one… I just love it. Try as I might, I can’t seem to find out much about Joe & Ann, except that Joe’s full name is actually ‘Joseph Joseph’ (try Googling that!), and that by 1962 they had become known as ‘The Original’ Joe & Ann. The ‘A. Tyler’ in the songwriting credit refers, of course, to Alvin ‘Red’ Tyler, who, in addition to being a member of Cosimo’s original J&M Studio band (along with Earl Palmer and Frank Fields), had been working as an A&R man for Johnny Vincent’s Ace label since 1955, cutting some of New Orleans’ biggest hits in the process. As Mac Rebennack told John Broven, “I don’t think anybody ever gave Red the credit, but he was the true leader of the band. He would sit down and organize most every song. He would organize the changes, teach the guitar player to change, have the piano run it down for everybody to learn…”

Shortly after this record was made, Tyler left Ace and joined with Harold Battiste as one of the founding ‘executives’ of A.F.O. records, where he would be involved with yet another huge Crescent City blockbuster, Barbara George’s I Know (You Don’t Love Me No More). Lynn Abbott, an archivist at Tulane University’s Hogan Jazz Archive, recently alerted us to the fact that the first LP released on A.F.O., Monkey Puzzle by the Ellis Marsalis Quartet, bore Cosimo Codes which dated it as being mastered in early 1963. We wondered if A.F.O.’s next LP release, A Compendium by The A.F.O. Executives with Tammy Lynn, was coded as well but it is apparently a very rare record indeed. We had asked around, but nobody seemed to own a copy… nobody, that is, except the intrepid owner of the exhaustive VinylBeat.com, Joe Goldmark, who just recently found ’69-837′ etched into the dead wax on side two, which accurately dates it as being cut in the Summer of ’63. Thanks, Joe!

I am also proud to announce, as part of our re-launch of the site, that we have added an in-depth appreciation of the late Irving Banister, written by his friend and biggest fan Bret Littlehales, to our Second Line section.

There is also a new Photographs page, which features some of the historic photos that Jonas Bernholm took during his fabled Soul Music Odyssey in 1968, and had allowed us to use in our recent presentation at the Friends of The Cabildo 2020 Symposium.

Now boasting some 39 informative pages, The Cosimo Code is back, bigger and better than ever before… but we still need your help. There are still almost one thousand code numbers that are missing and unaccounted for. Check them records, boys and girls!

…and, thanks.